Editor’s note: This is one in a series of question and answer articles about local candidates running for office. The Northern Virginia Daily asked candidates three questions. The unedited responses are below.
Incumbent Tom Sayre is running against Walter Mabe for the Shenandoah District seat on the Warren County Board of Supervisors.
What actions will you take to regain citizens' trust in public officials in the wake of the embezzlement scandal at the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority?
The people of Warren County have been financially damaged by the secretive embezzlement and cover up schemes of some public officials. Over and above the financial damage they have suffered, the citizens have lost faith in our local government. To suggest a “quick fix” is to misunderstand the gravity of what has occurred.
First and foremost, all the guilty parties must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Not only does this serve the cause of law and order, but it will also bring the facts to light—facts that convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. It would be difficult to regain any trust without proper prosecution, so I plan to continue helping in any and every way possible to assist in this prosecution. My personal lawsuit against McDonald kept the focus on her which brought to light some of the very facts of the embezzlement.
Secondly, I will continue my best efforts to expose the corruption wherever it may be, in all corners of our local government, and work to REFORM the EDA and how it operates. We need to make sure this never happens again. A Reform Committee has been established to analyze all options for reform including analyzing the impact of dissolving the EDA with a final report due by November 29, 2019. Also, a citizens committee should be established to implement the report and give important citizen input.
We need to cease the untouchable independent status of the EDA.
On June 6, 2017 at an open, public joint County Board & EDA meeting, I drilled McDonald and Drescher and drew out information that led to the discovery of the EDA embezzlement.
I am on the record, in many open hearing meetings - asking tough questions – bringing out the under lying facts of the EDA scandal. I did all of this in spite of the lack of cooperation I received from some of my fellow board members and the entire EDA. I am easily accessible before and after all meetings to listen to your concerns and my phone number and email are widely published.
Do you believe that any officials who were in office or employed as the embezzlement scandal unfolded should remain in their positions and why?
Due to the actions of the guilty, the men and women and families of Warren County have suffered a terrible injustice. Together as a community, we need to recover from this injustice and move forward.
For some people, “moving forward” means voting out any and every official who happened to be in office when these criminal actions took place. At some level, I understand that initial response. After all, I am a citizen of Warren County, too. And I, like you, will be footing the bill for the criminal misdeeds and/or gross negligence of others. So, whether or not some officials personally did anything wrong, why not just vote them all out?
To answer that question, imagine if the same thing happened at your job. Let’s say that you are a manager of a company with twenty managers. Five managers secretly conspire behind closed doors to embezzle money from the company. Eventually, the five managers are found guilty, but everyone in the company is fired—including you. Though you haven’t even been accused of wrongdoing, it seems best to just fire you anyway. What’s wrong with that?
The answer is that it’s an injustice.
In all the years I’ve practiced law, I’ve never seen one injustice healed by committing a second injustice. Firing innocent men and women because of the guilty actions of others sets a terrible precedent for a community trying to move forward. And the outright refusal to differentiate criminals from law-abiding citizens creates a snowball effect in which everyone is potentially viewed with suspicion—and not merely those in government.
Further, those candidates who run on a “throw them all out” campaign—who exhibit no interest in distinguishing the innocent from the guilty, and don’t distinguish between the ones who were proactive, who did take action compared to the ones who opposed or hindered those actions —makes me wonder how they would govern once in office.
I am easily accessible to all of my constituents, even to the point to going to their door and/or sitting on their porch hearing and considering their ideas and concerns.
Outside of the issues at the EDA, what is the biggest issue facing the community and how will you solve it?
I want Warren County to be the BEST County in the Commonwealth of Virginia!
The revenue sharing road program with dollar for dollar match for the rural roads is very important to me. The state puts in 50%, the county 25%, and the property owners or the sanitary district 25%, and once the road is completed it is turned over to the state. There are some that want to end the county’s 25% funding and I will fight to continue the revenue sharing program by the county – improved rural roads are a necessity!
Promises made, promises kept! Four years ago when I was going door to door on Blue Mountain Road (then a gravel state road), I was told by a woman that when she moved on Blue Mountain in 1985 she was told Blue Mountain Road was going to be paved “that summer”. It never happened and it remained a gravel road. I told her during my first term I would do everything possible to see that the main thoroughfare road gets paved. In 2017 it was paved!
Leach Run Parkway, 50% grant funded and in 2017 we cut the ribbon on a beautiful 4 lane road with bike lanes and sidewalks for the entire community to enjoy.
The new splash pad is 33% private donation funded and the old fountain was hardly used by anybody – it will now see a lot of use by the kids! The music parks funded by Lorraine Hultquist are first class and enjoyed by all!
We need to continue to monitor salaries and benefits to be competitive within our local region. The school system has had many necessary renovations made.
The EDA needs to unload many of their real estate properties, but as always the goal needs to be on economic health that provides good paying jobs.
The railroad crossing on Fairground Road was recently redone and many crossings have been improved. While I still see the need for continued improvements – a Federal Build Grant of $15.5 million dollars has been secured for the construction of an over-pass railroad crossing on Rockland Road.